31 October 2020  |

The Use and Misuse of Tithe: Recapturing the True Spirit of the Tenth

Article to read for this week.


With the passage of time, tithing in Adventism evolved from systematic benevolence to what others have termed “systematic compulsion,” as various policies and measures created a sense of obligation or compulsion. For example, in 1932 tithe was included in the fundamental beliefs and Church Manual, making it mandatory in the election of local church officers. In 1951 baptismal vows included tithe, and in 1985, extensive guidance on limitations of use of tithe was published by the General Conference. Consequently our stewardship messages and church policies contained inferences of tithe being compulsory, contrary to Ellen White’s counsel.

Today, messaging around tithing places emphasis on God’s being the owner of everything, the blessing that come from returning tithes, and the need for members not to worry about the use or misuse of tithe. This approach, understandably informed by the need to inculcate faithfulness, has bred compliant instead of generous givers. Tithe has become a form of church tax, which confirms eligibility for church positions and is necessary for activating God’s blessings.

Thus, our messaging on tithe has been contaminated with notions of fear-mongering. Unconsciously, some of us have grown up scared that if we don’t return tithe, God will be angry, and whatever misfortune that befalls us may be a consequence of not returning tithe.

The careless use of Malachi 3 created a sense of fearful giving that has woven itself into our stewardship messages. This robs us of a true picture of a God who makes it rain on the wicked (who don’t tithe) and the good (who return a faithful tithe).

Related to this, using tithe as an eligibility criterion for membership and election into church, though meant to inculcate responsible membership, unfortunately perpetuates a “subscription” mentality. It is the excessive emphasis on the blessings that come from tithing and its defining eligibility for participation that breeds fearfully compliant givers instead of cheerful givers.

It is time our emphasis on tithe be divested of any forms of manipulation, and let the love of God be the greatest motivation.


Admiral Ncube (PhD) is from Zimbabwe. He is a development analyst based in Botswana. He is a father of three and husband to Margret.


Loren Seibold is the Executive Editor of Adventist Today

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